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Liberal Outrage

I Hate the Name Calling "Criticisms"

I get the desire. I'm constantly calling people "asshats" (in case you haven't noticed). It makes me feel better. But i'm writing blog posts to fnord12 (and possibly some of our stupid friends). This is me having a conversation with fnord12 while we're at work and not sitting on our couch where we could have this conversation otherwise. I can say "asshat" on my couch! I think the media needs to do a little better though. Trump sexually assaulting someone should not get equal/less focus than his crazy tweets insulting the cast of a musical.

When John Oliver started his "Drumpf" campaign, it made me cringe inside. Every time Jimmy Dore says "Donnie Tiny Hands", i hate it a little more. There was a point where it stopped being amusing and started to feel juvenile and not particularly productive. Isn't this the sort of crap Rush Limbaugh does? Do i want to equate John Oliver with Rush Limbaugh???

Nathan J. Robinson argues that there is a better way to criticize Trump.

[S]urely it matters more that he has actually committed serious sex crimes than that he has possibly made some bizarre reference to Megyn Kelly's menstrual cycle. Likewise, his history of making it hard for his contractors to feed their families is far more reprehensible than his outlandish tweeting habits or his risible haircut. Trump's actions have hurt people in serious ways, and his behavior can be divided into that which is merely silly (such as his calling Rosie O'Donnell rude names) versus that which actively causes pain (such as his almost certainly having raped someone).

Unfortunately, media outrage about Trump frequently adopts a uniform level of outrage at his acts. Trump's history is treated as a set of bad things, meaning that few distinctions are made among which kinds of transgressions are worse. But there are lesser and greater crimes. Trump's constant theft of wages and payments from dishwashers, cabinet-makers, and servers is far more consequential than, say, his promotion of a failed mail-order steak franchise. But press coverage often treats such things as being of equal interest.


This is why John Oliver's mockery of Trump on Last Week Tonight was particularly toothless and pathetic. Having found out that Trump's German ancestors were called "Drumpf" rather than "Trump," Oliver led a campaign to "Make Donald Drumpf Again," wringing great amusement out of the apparent silliness of Trump's ancestral name. But what was the point of this joke? What did it say about Trump? Lots of people have foreign ancestors with unusual names. Do we care? Isn't progressivism supposed to have, as one of its principles, that foreign names aren't funny just because they're foreign? Isn't this the cheapest and most xenophobic of all possible jokes? Oliver's Drumpf campaign became extremely popular, but it was deeply childish. It fell into a common trap of Trump critiques: it descended to Trump's level, using name-calling and playground taunts rather than trying to actually critique the truly harmful and reprehensible things about Trump. (It is possible to do satirical comedy that is actually brutal. The best joke about George W. Bush was nothing to do with My Pet Goat or his choking on a pretzel, but was the Onion's devastating headline: "George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him Everywhere.")

The failure to distinguish between tone and substance afflicted coverage of the notorious Billy Bush tape. Multiple news outlets reported that Trump had been caught on tape making "lewd" or "vulgar" remarks about women. In fact, he had been caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault. The problem wasn't the vulgarity. (After all, it would have been unobjectionable if he had been caught on tape saying "there's nothing I love more than when someone gives unambiguous and enthusiastic consent for me to grab her by the pussy.") It didn't matter that he had said the word "pussy," it mattered that he had admitted to a series of outrageous sex crimes. But the idea that "vulgarity" is what's unappealing about Trump suggests that if he did the same exact things, with a little better manners, his behavior would be beyond reproach.

Criticisms should be of the things that matter: the serial sexual assaults, the deportation plans, the anti-Muslim sentiment, the handouts to the rich, the destruction of the earth. These are the things that matter, and if progressives actually do care about them, then these are the things we should spend our time discussing. Forget the gaffes. Forget the hypocrisy. Forget the hotels. Forget the hair. And don't bother calling him Drumpf.

And also,

But mounting effective attacks against Trump requires caring about being effective to begin with. The more Democrats spend time talking about things like, say, Trump angering China with a phone call to Taiwan (isn't the left supposed to favor talking to Taiwan?), the less we'll zero in on Trump's true political weaknesses. Trump wants us to talk about his feud with the cast of Hamilton. He does not want us to force him to talk seriously about policy.

Cereally! Who isn't tired of the US pretending to not talk to Taiwan so that China won't get pissy about it? We should be talking to Taiwan! China needs to get over it. Coddling them is not going to help them move on. Buncha whiners.

By min | December 15, 2016, 9:33 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Winning the popular vote

The postmortems i've been linking to have been focused on policy issues, since i'm interested in seeing the Democratic party rebuild itself after a series of staggering defeats and move away from the DLC centrist philosophy that's been driving it since Bill Clinton. This Politico article focuses on the strategic and tactical mistakes. I don't think there are many lessons to learn from this sort of thing, except in a kind of narrow sense about who to hire to run a campaign next time. But since a lot of Democrats are resisting the need to change, citing the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, i think this is worth calling out:

But there also were millions approved for transfer from Clinton's campaign for use by the DNC -- which, under a plan devised by Brazile to drum up urban turnout out of fear that Trump would win the popular vote while losing the electoral vote, got dumped into Chicago and New Orleans, far from anywhere that would have made a difference in the election.

Basically, they deliberately ran up the popular votes in places that didn't matter (tactically speaking). I'm 100% in favor of eliminating the electoral college (and not just during the month after a Democrat loses the electoral vote while winning the popular vote), but you can't claim that Trump is somehow illegitimate for winning by the rules everyone understood in advance. Or that everything is fine and we don't need to change anything for next time. You can argue that the people running the Clinton campaign were idiots for taking the Rust Belt for granted while trying to run up the score for bragging rights elsewhere.

By fnord12 | December 15, 2016, 8:48 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Words that make you go "der!"

The Obama administration -- perhaps anticipating a Hillary Clinton presidency -- supported these changes.

By fnord12 | December 12, 2016, 11:04 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Did You Know We Had a Labor Party Once Upon a Time?


The last major effort to form a national vehicle for working-class politics was the Labor Party (LP), founded twenty years ago. Under the leadership of Tony Mazzocchi, president of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union, the party's organizers gathered support from other major unions and grassroots trade-unionists and held its founding convention in 1996.

The Labor Party's history is not well-known in the broader progressive world. But as the most recent major effort by organized labor to form an independent party, it is a story that should interest anyone who hopes to see a revival of left politics, because on the Left only unions have the scale, experience, resources, and connections with millions of workers needed to mount a permanent, nationwide electoral project.

By all accounts it was an inspiring effort that seemed, for a moment, to portend a renaissance for the labor-left. But the party lost momentum just a few years after its founding. By 2007 it had effectively ceased to exist.

They never ran a candidate for fear of splitting the vote and ending up with a Republican, so it's no surprise if you didn't know about their existence.

The dilemma stands out clearly in the recollections of Labor Party veterans. "The Labor Party had to start with the assurance that it wouldn't play spoiler politics and that it would [first] focus on building the critical mass necessary for serious electoral intervention," former LP national organizer Mark Dudzic recalled in a recent interview. Yet, as Les Leopold of the Labor Institute told Brown, that path ultimately led to irrelevance: "It's not easy for Americans to understand a party that's not electoral. I think that that was just a difficult sell."

No shit.

I recommend reading the entire article. It goes on to talk about the problems of trying to make changes from within the Democratic party, which sort of seems like the only other option if there's no chance of a viable third party.

It's true that a number of sincere, committed leftists, or at least progressives, run for office on the Democratic ballot line at all levels of American politics. Sometimes they even win. And all else equal, we're better off with such politicians in office than without them. So in that limited sense, the answer might be "yes."

But electing individual progressives does little to change the broad dynamics of American politics or American capitalism. In fact, it can create a kind of placebo effect: sustaining the illusion of forward motion while obscuring the fact that neither party is structurally built to reflect working-class interests.


In this "party-less" model of politics, it's the Democratic politician who goes about trying to recruit a base, rather than the other way around. The politician's platform and message are devised by her and her alone. They can be changed on a whim. And there is no mechanism by which the politician can be held accountable to the (fairly nebulous) progressive constituency she has recruited to her cause.

The following is a proposal for such a model: a national political organization that would have chapters at the state and local levels, a binding program, a leadership accountable to its members, and electoral candidates nominated at all levels throughout the country.

As a nationwide organization, it would have a national educational apparatus, recognized leaders and spokespeople at the national level, and its candidates and other activities would come under a single, nationally recognized label. And, of course, all candidates would be required to adhere to the national platform.

But it would avoid the ballot-line trap. Decisions about how individual candidates appear on the ballot would be made on a case-by-case basis and on pragmatic grounds, depending on the election laws and partisan coloration of the state or district in question. In any given race, the organization could choose to run in major- or minor-party primaries, as nonpartisan independents, or even, theoretically, on the organization's own ballot line.

The ballot line would thus be regarded as a secondary issue. The organization would base its legal right to exist not on the repressive ballot laws, but on the fundamental rights of freedom of association.

I'm not sure i understand exactly how this would work. It sounds like a union or a really really big club. And i'm not sure that the national leadership would be as beholden to the members as imagined. In theory, the American Federation of Teachers union leadership is beholden to its members, but they have and can make unilateral decision to publically endorse candidates without consulting the membership with very little consequence to themselves.

And if they're going to run candidates in the primaries, why not just do that within the Democratic party as opposed to nominally being independent?

By min | December 9, 2016, 1:34 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Pardon my post-post mortem

I don't know if this violates my "no more post-mortems" promise, but i early linked to the first two parts of Ryan Cooper's four parter, and i've realized that the second two parts are now out and quite good. And they're really about rebuilding the Democratic party, so they're not post-mortems anymore anyway. Here's part three and the bottom of it links to part four.


As part of this, Dems should also shed their preening "wonky" self-presentation. Hillary Clinton had a whole office stuffed full of policy experts churning out papers on everything under the sun, and it was all for naught. Remember that the point of campaigns is to set values and priorities, not lay out hugely complicated policies that do little but flatter the campaign's sense of its own expertise. How many people were swayed by Clinton's last-minute plan to make the Child Tax Credit somewhat more refundable for certain parents? I'd wager it was in the triple digits at best.

That's not to say that realistic ideas are bad, or that one should be deliberately dishonest, but that the time for drilling down on the minute details is after the election is won.

remember how all the pundits kept criticizing Bernie cause he didn't have a "specific" plan for everything under the sun? and only had general policies outlined? GRR!

By fnord12 | December 8, 2016, 6:25 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Of course intersectionality includes class

I thought this was a good write-up by Katie Halper. I love that the Clinton campaign's final contribution to politics is an argument over the meaning of what the word "but" is. It has a certain symmetry to it.

I remember reading this exchange during the primary and how it made me feel queasy:

In an obvious dig at Sanders, who the Clinton campaign was deriding as a "single issue candidate," Clinton asked, rhetorically, "Not everything is about an economic theory, right? If we broke up the big banks tomorrow -- and I will, if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will -- would that end racism?" When the audience responded "No!" Clinton took the call and response and really ran with it, asking "Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight? Would that solve our problem with voting rights, and Republicans who are trying to strip them away from people of color, the elderly, and the young?"

The audience responded to each of these questions with... "No!"

I kept waiting for Clinton's plan to end discrimination and the policy differences she had from Sanders that necessitated abandoning his economic approach. But nothing ever surfaced.

By fnord12 | December 8, 2016, 8:51 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Welcome to the Monkey Cage

After Trump falsely claimed on Twitter that he would have won the popular vote "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally", the media (rightly) demanded to know where he got that information. And Trump told them it was from the Washington Post:

In 2014, under the headline "Could non-citizens decide the November election?" the Post had run a piece from two social scientists, Jesse Richman and David Earnest, suggesting that illegal voting by non-citizens could be regularly occurring, and could even be prevalent enough to tip elections. As they wrote:

How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

Richman and Earnest's thesis was extremely controversial, and was so heavily criticized that the Post ultimately published a note preceding the article, pointing out that many objections to the work had been made. But the Post never actually retracted or withdrew the piece.

In response, the Washington Post went in a weird direction:

Without actually linking to the Post's original article about voting by non-citizens, fact-checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee tried to claim that the study wasn't really in the Washington Post. Instead, she said, it: "was published two years ago in the Monkey Cage, a political-science blog hosted by The Washington Post. (Note to Trump's staff members: This means you can't say The Washington Post reported this information; you have to cite the Monkey Cage blog.)"

It was an embarrassing defense. The writers had explicitly said that a reasonable extrapolation from existing data was that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in the 2008 election. They had said so in an article that appeared on the Washington Post's website, displayed in exactly the same manner as every single other piece of reportage. And the Post had never taken the article down or retracted the claim, and had only noted that the piece was highly controversial. Yet instead of apologizing for the Post's role in spreading a dubious claim, Lee relied on ridiculous distinctions. She insisted that the Post had "hosted" rather than "published" the article. She attempted to enforce a made-up rule, that people aren't allowed to cite the article as coming from the Post, but must instead cite it as coming from something called the "Monkey Cage," which sounds far less credible. Yet on the article page itself, there is no such disclaimer to indicate a distinction between non-Post-endorsed "blog posts" and actual Post writing, and the words "Monkey Cage" appear in tiny letters beneath the ordinary full-sized Washington Post logo. There is nothing to make ordinary readers aware that the Post is not responsible for any claims made in these corners of its website.

I'll link directly to the original article and let you decide if you would cite that as coming from the Post. I would (even still).

Now (and this shouldn't need to be said) this is not a defense of Trump. That article clearly had major problems and should obviously not have been cited by anyone, let alone the President-Elect on a topic that undermines faith in our democracy and stirs up hate for immigrants. The point is how much the Washington Post sucks in a) publishing that without skepticism, b) not retracting it after it got multiple takedowns from experts, and c) resorting to the lame defense that it wasn't "really" them after Trump cited it.

This has relevance to another story. A few posts down i linked to a few discussions of the Washington Post's unskeptical article on PropOrNot, the organization that is pushing a list of "fake news" sites that, among other things, it advocates get investigated by the FBI (a list that features many legit, if non-mainstream, sites). After much pushback, the Post has put a mealy mouthed "Editor's Note" at the top of the article, saying that they don't vouch for PropOrNot and that it was only one of four organizations mentioned in their article. As Adam Johnson of FAIR says, that's bullshit. 90% of the Post's article was about PropOrNot, and it was the only part of the article that was new (i.e. "news"). PropOrNot had some very specific claims about the number of "planted" articles that were viewed. And when the Post's article first came out, it was widely cited by major pundits and Clinton campaign operatives on Twitter, all who have large followings. So talking about undermining faith in democracy, we now have a Post article shared by millions who think that it's proof that Russia hacked our election. The Post's belated editor's note won't get nearly as much coverage, and since the Post isn't actually retracting the article, it will still be there for someone to cite the same way Trump cited the election fraud article.

By the way, i did check the Post's PropOrNot article, and it says "Business" in the same place that the election fraud article said "Monkey Cage". Does that mean i should be saying that it's not a Washington Post article, it's a Business article?

P.S. The article i linked to at top also gets into the topic of fact checking sites and their flaws; it's worth a full read.

By fnord12 | December 8, 2016, 7:35 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Taibbi Reviews Friedman's Thank You For Being Late



Take the chapter about Mother Nature, which opens with a story about a day in July, 2015 when the heat index in southern Iran reached 163 degrees. That news item gives the author an opening to introduce the concept of a "black elephant," an ominous (if you know Friedman) term apparently explained to him by environmentalist Adam Sweidan:

"[It is] a cross between a 'black swan' - a rare, low-probability, unanticipated event with enormous ramifications - and 'the elephant in the room': a problem that is widely visible to everyone, yet that no one wants to address, even though we absolutely know that one day it will have vast, black-swan-like consequences."

You would think he could just say, "The climate change problem is a cross between a black swan and the elephant in the room - or, as I like to call it, a Black Elephant."

Instead he leads audiences through drawn-out explanations of two everyday terms. Moreover his unnecessary definition of "the elephant in the room" contains the phrase "black swan," making what was originally a relatively simple idea now a kind of circular movie-within-a-movie image that is more than a little hard to follow: "A black elephant is a cross between a black swan event and the elephant in the room, which is an ignored but visibly obvious problem that will inevitably become a black swan event."

You're still grappling with that when you learn "there are a herd of environmental black elephants out there."


Did you know that "megatoothed sharks prowled the oceans" the last time the CO2 concentration in the earth's atmosphere was as high as it was in Hawaii on May 3rd, 2013, an astonishing four hundred parts per million? You probably didn't, because things that prowl usually have feet - but anyway, back to the elephants...

It's almost too easy to mock Thomas Friedman, but he's out there influencing people with his make-no-sense words so he definitely deserves all the mockery that can be bestowed upon him.

And there are graphs!!! I'm dying!

By min | December 6, 2016, 12:36 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Ok, i found that radical center

They're willing to risk civil war to install John Kasich as president.

By fnord12 | December 6, 2016, 8:22 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Russia stuff

I thought this Harper's article was just going to talk about the recent claims that Russia hacked our election and/or has been targeting us with "fake news". But it's actually a deep dive into our history of inflating the threat of Russia. It's a good, but long, read.

Regarding the "fake news", it's worth seeing this (and similar write-ups by the Intercept and Matt Taibbi and others) regarding the latest claim from the Washington Post, which has smeared leftie websites like Naked Capitalism (which we've read and linked to for years), CounterPunch, and Black Agenda Report, and right-leaning and libertarian sites like Antiwar and the Ron Paul Institute and even the Drudge Report, all with no evidence.

By fnord12 | December 2, 2016, 8:55 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Fixing our economy is a national defense interest

Emptywheel has some interesting thoughts on our industrial policy (i'd say "or lack thereof", but her point is that we actually do have one).

By fnord12 | December 1, 2016, 12:12 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Keith Ellison on the Democratic Party


Most importantly, he reminds all the blockheads that hey, you can actually fight for people of color and the white working class at the same goddamned time!

Well, the party needs to be very clear that we have to stand for a strong, populist economic message and we have to care for everybody's rights and uphold everyone's human dignity. If we try to trade one for the other, we're going to lose both.

The way the working class is always controlled is that it's divided. When you don't stand together in solidarity, the other side starts picking off groups, and they end up hurting everybody.

...many people in the white working class voted for Obama twice, and then they voted for Trump. The way I see it, the alt-right movement is parasitic, trying to insert itself into the legitimate grievances of the American working class. If they are allowed to be successful, everyone's situation is going to get worse. Once they turn us against each other, they get people competing against each other, our focus turns, and the economic situation gets worse.

Why is the south historically the poorest part of the country? Because when they held black people in slavery, they didn't have to pay white people much of nothing.

So we are all better off when we have solidarity. We need to unify because if we're together, we can make a common demand for more fairness and more prosperity.

By min | December 1, 2016, 12:07 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Follow-Up on Trump's Carrier Deal

Lest we get confused because Trump did something to save jobs that Obama didn't, Sanders reminds us why Trump's deal was a chump deal.

Loathe as i am to give WaPo traffic...Link.

In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to "pay a damn tax." He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States. Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut. Wow! How's that for standing up to corporate greed? How's that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad?

In essence, United Technologies took Trump hostage and won. And that should send a shock wave of fear through all workers across the country.

Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives. Even corporations that weren't thinking of offshoring jobs will most probably be re-evaluating their stance this morning. And who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America.


If United Technologies or any other company wants to keep outsourcing decent-paying American jobs, those companies must pay an outsourcing tax equal to the amount of money it expects to save by moving factories to Mexico or other low-wage countries. They should not receive federal contracts or other forms of corporate welfare. They must pay back all of the tax breaks and other corporate welfare they have received from the federal government. And they must not be allowed to reward their executives with stock options, bonuses or golden parachutes for outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries. I will soon be introducing the Outsourcing Prevention Act, which will address exactly that.

If Donald Trump won't stand up for America's working class, we must.

By min | December 1, 2016, 12:00 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link

Own it and be ready

Yglesias makes a fair point (warning: Twitter): "When Obama used leverage over contractors to get paid leave for *over a million people* it was a minor story." He means this in contrast to Trump's Carrier actions.

But two counterpoints: 1) First, Trump (unsurprisingly) knows how to promote himself. You can whine all you want about lack of media coverage. Trump makes his own. Why couldn't Democrats? In part it's because they're embarrassed about what they do because they're triangulating between opposing constituents. In part because they're meek and don't like getting yelled at by Republicans. Trump welcomes the fight with the "losers and haters" and makes sure his supporters know (and/or believe) that he's fighting for them.

2) Obama didn't start doing stuff like this until the Dems lost their third straight Congressional election after he was elected. We talked about this at the time. Suddenly Obama found out that he could do things. So very late in his administration he started taking executive action, and many of these things haven't even gone into effect yet. The thing that Yglesias is talking about was announced at the end of this September. By the time it would have gone into effect, Trump will have reversed it. Similarly, we cheered when Obama updated the overtime threshold. That has since been put on hold by a district court in Texas, and i guarantee Trump won't pursue the appeal. As we've said before, you have to have this stuff ready for the day you walk into office. Hell, Trump isn't even waiting until he's president. Whichever Democrats are looking at themselves in the mirror and saying "2020" had better have a long list of the things they are going to do in their first 100 days that don't need to go through Congress, both so they can tout them on the campaign trail and so we don't have to wait seven years before they start enacting them.

By fnord12 | December 1, 2016, 11:42 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link

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